Runequest Thursday #135 - The Cult of the White Moon!

Clint Staples

If you have read many of the other posts I have done over the last couple of years for Runequest Thursday, you might have come across the Cult of the Blue Moon, or other references to the Blue Moon. These came out of an adventure I ran for my Brightwater PCs, in which they found a magical portal to the Blue Moon (a little known celestial body in the Gloranthan sky). There they did a number of things, including almost being killed )of course), encountering some powerful birdmen, some apelike natives, and representatives of the sorcerously potent High Folk.

They also discovered Annihila, the imprisoned goddess of the Blue Moon and, well, unimprisoned her.

One of the characters became particularly interested in Annihila, and became an Acolyte of the Blue Moon. In talks with the player, I expressed my interest in altering the Blue Moon cult, and its goddess, to reflect some of the mythology of Glorantha, or at least our interpretation of it - namely the Rise of the White Moon, an obscure event that is tied somehow to the Age fo Heroes, the Fourth Age fo the World - the one in which we are playing.

Needless to say, perhaps, the player liked the idea of the White Moon, so we ran with it. I foreshadowed things leading up to the big reveal with some hints, and made sure the characters were all gathered for the event - which occurred at the Paps at Sacred Time - the same Sacred Time that the Argrath happened to gather all sorts of followers, perform the heroquest of the White Bull, and lead everyone to the Paps in a huge Kumbaya of Praxians and Orlanthi that has galvanized resistance to the Lunars in the River of Cradles.

Back to Annihila: She appeared in the holiest of Praxian Holies, Challenged the Red Goddess and the Lunar Empire, and called upon any who would resist the rise of Crimson Chaos, to answer her. It was a great session, with a lot of high spirits around the table from all involved.

When we came down a bit, I called an intermission in the story part of the evening, while together, the players and I worked out what the Cult of the White Moon would look like. We talked about some mythic elements, the runes she would refute and embrace, deeds she might accomplish, alliances, and her stated goals. All the while, I took notes.

This is the Cult that came out of that session, our brainstorming, and my notes.

 

The Cult of Annihila – the White Moon

The goddess of the Blue Moon, Annihila, attacked and weakened during the Godtime, has hidden ever since, regaining her strength. When the Red Goddess arose to claim the Moon rune, Annihila had a simple choice, to relinquish it – or die. The power of the new goddess, and her Chaos friends, was too great. But Annihila bided her time, clinging to an obscure prophecy– that the time of the White Moon would come. The Blue Moon goddess waited, watched from the outer heavens as she circled Glorantha, plunging into and through the Underworld, to rise again.

She knew that, someday, she would rise again – transformed.

Historical Time:

In historical time, Annihila has cultivated what power she could. Blue Moon sorcerers, darkness cults, and trolls have venerated her, sustained her, each using her to their own ends, twisting the Blue Moon to serve their purpose. Annihila’s patience was great however, and she took from those who gave, granting benisons, magic, even prophecy, when it suited her, slowly building her power.

The Artmali, the blue men, created an empire  and worshipped Annihila during the First Age, served her faithfully and well, but their kingdom, in far Pamaltela, fell centuries ago. Now the Artmali are slaves or savages. Many turned away from her in the meantime, or give her homage under the names of the beasts she has spawned since.

The Fourth Age:

When adventurers stepped through the Blue Moon Gate, they healed the weakened goddess, allowing her to seek out her father Magasta, and attempt to reestablish her place among the gods of Glorantha. This she has done, breaking her ties with the Sea Court who gave her up, forging new alliances as she claimed new Runes, new powers, and new Aspirants. The outcome of these actions is unknown, but the goddess tires of waiting.

The Fourth Age is the Time of Heroes. Annihila will wait no longer to reclaim the Moon from the Usurper.

Within the Lunar Empire, and certain others who are allied with it [some Blue Moon Sorcerers, for example, and some trolls of the Blue Moon Plateau who favor the Lunar cause] the Blue Moon is considered subservient to the Red Goddess. For the entirety of Lunar history, the Blue Moon has been quiescent, a cosmic curiosity and a place to loot for power and obscure Lunar magic.

This changed when Annihila cast off the shackles of the Blue Moon, revealing her celestial glory in a Sacred Time apotheosis that challenged Crimson Lunar Ascendancy.

The view of the Empire has been dim, but rather lackluster. With the ongoing rebellion in Sartar, the rise of Orlanthi outlaw bands and Praxian tribal unification after the White Bull ride, the Lunar administration and army south of Dragon Pass is overtaxed. No organized attempt has been made to stamp out what is currently considered to be a trivial threat.

Runes: Moon, Movement, Disorder

As the Blue Moon, Annihila was tied primarily to the Darkness rune in its manifestation of Shadow, but was born of Water – to which she returns each Waterday by plunging through Magasta’s Whilrpool and into the Underworld. When she remade herself, these relationships, and the runes associated with them, were cast off, and new one claimed.

Upon travelling to, and through, her father’s court, Annihila has been reborn. Ever a goddess of Movement, she solidified this trait by making a gift of her water powers to Magasta. In exchange, the Sea King taught his daughter the deepest secrets of the Movement Rune.  Annihila then ventured deeper into the Underworld, eluding demon guardians and helbeasts, to study the twin arts of war and death with Humakt. Though the Death God would not give up his sword, under his tutelage Annihila learned the power from whence the sword was born – Disorder. With these Runes, she returned to the Blue Moon, which had been her prison for three Ages of the World. There she collected her scattered moonwolf followers, forged them into an army, and began to wage war on the High Folk who had bound her ages before by severing her connection to Glorantha itself.

Holy Days:

The cult holy days, if there are celebrated, are Godday of each week. Seasonal Holy fall on Godday of Disorder week. The High Holy Day for the year is in Dark Season, in honor of the darkness which sheltered Annihila for so long. Sacred Time, when the White Moon revealed itself at the Paps, is considered an auspicious time to contact the goddess.

Sacred Affiliations:

The sacred metal of the White Moon is still Silver. Smiths of the White Moon are taught a ritual to craft potent weapons of Moonsilver, which requires the blood of a moonwolf and moonsilver ore.

With the coming of the White Moon, Annihila has given up her sacred shadows, in favor of open challenge to the established order of the Red Goddess. The White Moon travels through the sky, and through the Underworld. Thus far, her speed, and her friends among Magasta’s Court, have kept her safe from Lunar power. That and her new knowledge of the Disorder rune, which she got while studying with the God of Death, Humakt. This weapon, called Ughasta (Unmaker), is a crescent-shaped axe forged of the Disorder rune itself.

The Blue Moon has harbored the Moonwolves – creatures sacred to Annihila for centuries. Moonwolves are supernatural wolfmen, quite distinct from the Telmori wolf-changers [who can transform into wolves]. Moonwolves partake of the Disorder rune in a fundamental way, and are transformed for as long as the White Moon resides in the same world as they. Thus those that reside on Glorantha are normal humans [or occasionally other species] while the Moon is in the underworld, but transform for the entire time that she is in the outer sky over their heads. Should a Moonwolf venture into to the Underworld when Annihila is there, they will assume their wolflike form. Moonwolves who reside ON the White Moon are transformed all the time.

Currently, Annihila is presecuting a war against the High Folk and Blue Moon Trolls for possession of the White Moon. She challenged them accept her dominion, and the becoming of the White Moon. They refused. Annihila collected her moonwolves, allied with other assorted creatures native to the Moon, including several tribes of primitives wishing to throw off the oppression of the High Folk.

Lay Membership:

There is no official ranking for lay members of this cult. Annihila is favorably disposed to any who fight or act in her name, and so considers them lay members at least. They have not formal duties, dues or privileges.

Requirements for Initiation:

White Moon Aspirants, must possess at 60% or greater: one Axe skill chosen by the aspirant, plus two other skills, one of which must be one of Lore: Tactics, Warfare or another combat related skill. A combat Feat of Arms may be substituted for one of these. No Aspirant of the White Moon can know Fireblade. If they know the spell, the knowledge is stripped from them on becomingan Aspirant, and replaced by the spell: Moonstrike (see below).

Prospective Aspirants must be accepted by the Moon Priestess, who will accept donations of silver (though not Imperial Lunar coinage) as gifts to the cult – 100 Lunars worth of which will add 1d6% to the chance of acceptance. Because Annihila is actively at war, and in rebellion against the cosmic order imposed by the Red Moon, she currently stresses combat ability in her cultists. The basic formula for acceptance is CHA + POW + DEX + 10% for each combat skill possessed at over 60%.

A Moonwolf is automatically accepted as an Aspirant if they have the necessary skills.

Sorcerers are welcome to become Aspirants if they qualify. Blue Moon Sorcerers must abandon their allegiance to the Cabal of the Blue Moon and swear themselves to Annihila. Members of other Cabals must swear allegiance to the Cult of the White Moon.

Duties of Initiates:

Initiates must devote 50% of their time and income in service to the White Moon. Often this defaults to serving the priestess.

White Moon Aspirants are encouraged to give up Lay Membership or initiation of other cults,  devoting themselves to the Silver Ring of an Annihilator (Rune Lord or Lady).  The Annihilator, in exchange for protecting and providing for them, expects their loyalty and participation in actions to advance the cause of the White Moon Goddess.

‘Benefits’ of Initiation:

Aspirants of the White Moon gain the skill:

Moon Sense (CHA+POW): This skill grants the ability to determine the position of the Moons (White or Red) and the stage of its transit through either the celestial heights or the underworld. It also confers knowledge of the Phase of the Red Moon. Training is free, but generally progresses at the rate of a Check for each week serving the cult’s purpose or one check per season.

Cult Skill: Moon Lore (INTx2): This skill imparts understanding of the geography and history, culture and customs of the White Moon (including knowledge which pertained to the Blue Moon, which the White Moon had been for all of Time, up to Sacred Time, 2016).

Aspirants may train in the skills: Any Axe, Evade, Hide in Cover, Move Quietly, Moon Lore, and Spot Hidden for 50% of the normal price, provided they can find a cultist who can teach them.

The Cult Spells: Invisibility, Detect Chaos, Disruption, Moonstrike, may also be learned at 50% cost.

Requirements for Rune lord or Lady:

A candidate for Rune Lord or Rune Lady [called Annihilators] must have been an Aspirant for two years or must have been a Priestess or Lord of the Blue Moon (in which case she will be “interviewed personally” by the goddess of the White Moon for sincerity).

A Candidate must possess 5 skills at 90%, which must include:

  • One Axe Attack or Parry
  • Four more chosen from: either another Weapon Attack or a Weapon Parry, Evade, Spot Hidden, any Lore skill, Moon Sense or Warfare. A prospective Annihilator may substitute combat feats of Arms for up to two of these skills.
  • An Annihilator must have a minimum POW of 15.
  • Finally, they must pass a test determined by the head of the temple to which they apply. Usually this is not abstracted, but an actual mission set by the senior cultist, which must be completed to the satisfaction of the Examiner or the Goddess. Some temples favor assassinations for such missions, others like night raids under the Eye of the Moon [The night of Godday, when Annihila may be seen diving toward the Whirlpool of Magasta], some also count returning some item or piece of lore sacred or important to the White Moon as acceptable. A candidate who succeeds is welcomed as an Annihilator.

Duties of an Annihilator:

Annihilators must devote 90% of their income and wealth to the cult, but may freely draw on this as cult credit, when available. They must also devote no less than 50% of their time to cult business. Until the War of the Moon is won, all Annihilators serve in the war effort on the White Moon for most of this time.

Annihilators of the White Moon lead Aspirants when they are present, usually in missions to advance the cause of their goddess. In refutation of the secrecy of the Blue Moon, White Moon Annihilators are encouraged to proclaim themselves, drawing the attention of potential Aspirants and enemies in equal number. Perhaps demonstrating certain sentiments of the friendly cult of Humakt, Annihilators of the White Moon feel that this is a fine way to attract adherants to the cult, and to hone one’s skills.

Annihilators must ever be alert for opportunities to advance the cause or power of the White Moon, and must bring these opportunities to the notice of the senior members of their temple. Annihilators also must recruit a Silver Ring from the Aspirants they know, provide them with Moonsilver weapons and a basic stipend [which varies from one place to another]. Many Annihilators go far beyond the minimums in this regard. An Annihilator may lead Aspirants beyond those of his Silver Ring Coven, but those of the Coven are likely to be better trained, motivated and equipped.

Benefits of being an Annihilator:

In addition to mastery over a Silver Ring, an Annihilator can expect all of the normal benefits of Rune level, such as Rune level Divine Intervention and Rune Magic, an allied spirit, and ransom in time of need [in truth this is more likely to involve a bloody rescue mission]. Steel is not favored by the White Moon, but Moonsilver weapons and harness suited to the Annihilator will be provided if available.

As great warriors sworn to a sacred cause, Annihilators benefit from friendly relations with the cult of Humakt, whose members know of the friendship their dour lord extended to Annihila when she wandered the Underworld. If a particular Annihilator is known to be a being of honor, he can expect acceptance in Humakti halls, even kinship with the lords of the death god.

Annihilators also gain the dubious benefit of the lasting enmity of the Red Goddess, Her Entire Pantheon, and her Imperial war machine. Some Annihilators hide from such attentions. Others accept them, and the many challenges and assassination attempts, as their due – and opportunities to display the growing prowess of the White Moon.

Requirements for Priestess or Priest:

A Priestess must exhibit the qualities of the goddess – her rebellion, her lethality, her passion for Mastery of the Moon and its rune. She must give hospitality to any Aspirant or Annihilator, sheltering them from discovery, or transporting them away if the need arises. She must have POW 18 or higher, Moon Sense at 90%, Theurgy at 75% [Annihila’s doctrine is not terribly strict], and she must be presented to the goddess on the White Moon itself and be found acceptable. Given the embattled state of the White Moon at presents, Annihila has allowed that an appropriate Feat of Arms may be substituted for one of these requirements.

Formal acceptance requires that the prospective priestess spend an entire transit through the Underworld on the White Moon, in the company of her goddess.

Duties of Being ‘Priestess:

The Priestess of Annihila is called ‘Face of the Moon’, and leads the worship of her chosen. Given the current nature of the cult, congregations may be small. Worship is conducted during the nights of the listed Holy Days, generally in a secret cave or other underground location. Dark robes with shrouds or hoods, as well as silver of Moonsilver masks, are worn during the ceremonies, and revelation of the features of the Priestess, and her followers are part of ritual.

Beyond being spiritual leaders, Faces of the Moon are generally also the conduit to the White Moon Goddess and thereby the decision makers of the cult, directing Annihilators and Aspirants according to the designs of the White Moon. Faces must pass through a Moongate and commune with the White Moon itself at least once per season, ideally on a Holy Night. In the same way, a face must transit the Underworld with the White Moon at least once per year, ideally during Sacred Time. If these journeys cannot be accomplished, a Face’s powers will begin to wane.

Benefits of Being Face of the Moon:

In addition to the power of controlling the Annihilators and their Rings, Faces have the normal benefits of a priest or priestess, including priestly Divine Intervention and Rune Magic, and an allied spirit. Further, a Face always knows the position of the White Moon and the state of the Red Moon, and may use her Divine Intervention for hidden insights into the machinations of the Red Goddess and her followers.

Relations with Other Cults:

The Red Moon is Annihila’s greatest foe, and her worshippers will devote much energy to purging the rogue moon from existence, and eradicating her worshippers. Currently, that has not amounted to a great deal, but as the Red Moon’s fortunes improve, Annihila can expect retribution swift and terrible.

Many other cults do not know of the White Moon’s resurgence, of, if they do, are unaware of the presence of a temple or of a Silver Circle Coven operating in their vicinity. Worshippers of Magasta, as well as many beasts of sea and tide, favored the former Blue Moon cult, as do cultists of Subere and Kyger Lytor. How each feels about the White Moon is often unknown.

Cults with Chaotic sympathies generally are opposed to the White Moon (if they are aware of its existence) because she understands some of their nature, and because she opposes the Red Moon, their greatest benefactor. Annihila knows the danger of Chaos – her entire court was destroyed by it. She opposes the works of Chaos when possible, but prefers tactical strikes or flight, rather than berserk charges or futile last stands.

Many other cults, like the Orlanthi pantheon, have little knowledge or, or interest in, the White Moon. Yinkin Shadowcat is the exception in feeling well disposed to her. Yinkin has taken note of Annihila in this Age of Heroes, and comprehends that there is a new power rising.

 

Cult Spells: Battle Magic: In addition to standard Battle Magic, Aspirants and higher have access to the following Battle Magic.

Invisibility: Duration 5, POW 3, Touch

Though no longer in hiding, the White Moon recognizes the efficacy of this spell and continues to favor it in attack and infiltration.

You, or the target touched, are rendered invisible to visual detection for 5 minutes. Certain spells, such as Second Sight will note your presence as a vague shape. Detection spells will detect your presence if you would normally be detectable by them (Detect Life, Detect Enemy, etc). You may also give yourself away by sound or scent, neither of which is affected by this spell. Any attack, physical, magical, or spiritual, immediately dispels your invisibility, as does being struck by directed attack either magical or physical. You may however speak or take many other actions without becoming visible, though this might make it easier for you to be found.

In combat, an opponent who attacks you is at -50% IF they are attacking the right place. To determine your position without some ability to defeat your invisibility they must have succeed at Scent or Listen at Hard [-40%].

 

Detect Chaos: Concentration, POW 1, Range – Zero, Area - 50 Yards,

Resist (Special)

Detect Chaos gives the direction and general location of creatures tainted with Chaos, as well as some idea of their power or degree of chaos taint. The spell is stopped by dense or thick materials such as metal, or earth and stone at least one yard thick, and is also blocked by Countermagic (or equivalent spells) of a greater Magnitude.

 

Moonstrike: Instant or Duration 5, POW 4, Resist, Range 20 yards, or Weapon Touched

A beam of White Moonlight is projected from the caster at a target or into a weapon she holds. If placed in a weapon, it will remain there for 5 minutes before fading. The target, or the next person successfully struck with the weapon, is attacked POW vs, POW. On a success, the location is affected as though it had suffered a major wound, although it does not actually suffer any HP damage. So a limb does not function, and a hit in a vital spot will render one unconscious or incapable of action. The effects last until the remainder of the 5 minutes has elapsed, though Dispel Magic or Fanaticism will also counter the effect. Moonstrike may not be applied to a weapon that currently is benefitting from Bladesharp, Pierce, or Fireblade.

 

Rune Magic: In addition to standard Rune Magic, Aspirants or higher have access to the following Cult Rune Spells.

Eclipse

The goddess has not discovered this power yet, but hopes to provide it to here worshippers when the time is right.

 

Moonwolf Form: Duration 15, Rank Aspirant, Self [Priestess – Touch]

This spell transforms the caster and all his personal belongings into a humanoid wolf hybrid – the Moonwolf, sacred to the Blue Moon. The caster retains his INT, CHA and POW scores but gains a bonus to his STR, DEX, CON, SIZ and Armor Points of 1 per point of Magnitude. He also gains the natural abilities of the creature:

  • Traits: Night Sight, Scent Tracking [Adds +30% to Tracking]
  • Move 12
  • Claw attack 1d8 + DB, Bite 1d10+ Damage Bonus, both beginning at 50%, but improvable with experience.

 

Truesilver: Duration 15 minutes, Rank: Rune Level

The weapon touched temporarily is transformed to Truesilver. Truesilver negates any natural resistances, regeneration, magical healing or similar that is granted because of a creature’s inherent nature or its ties to chaos. Thus a cave troll would not benefit from its regeneration vs Truesilver attacks In addition, Lune and Shades suffer an additional 1d10 of damage for each Rank of Truesilver.